50% of grocery deliveries by EVs: Flipkart’s path to a greener supply chain - Hindustan Times

50% of grocery deliveries by EVs: Flipkart’s path to a greener supply chain

Jun 13, 2024 11:37 PM IST

50% of grocery deliveries by EVs: Flipkart’s path to a greener supply chain

As the demand for e-grocery services surges in India, Flipkart is leading the way by intertwining sustainability with innovation in its supply chain. In this interview with Hindustan Times, Hemant Badri, Senior Vice President and Head of Supply Chain, Customer Experience, and Recommerce at Flipkart Group, and Nishant Gupta, Senior Director and Head of Sustainability at Flipkart Group, share their insights on how Flipkart is redefining grocery logistics to meet the needs of the modern consumer while prioritising environmental responsibility.

Flipkart Wishmasters delivering groceries through EVs.
Flipkart Wishmasters delivering groceries through EVs.

Can you provide an overview of the current state of the grocery supply chain in India and how Flipkart is addressing the growing demand for e-grocery services?

Hemant Badri: Grocery is emerging as the next big frontier in online shopping and is likely to be a major driver of growth in the Indian e-commerce industry. As one of the leading e-grocery players in India, we at Flipkart have been serving millions of consumers across the country through our product selection, wide delivery network, home-grown technological capabilities and deep domain expertise. We are expanding our grocery offerings with a robust supply chain infrastructure while enhancing last-mile delivery capabilities to meet the growing demands of Indians.

Over the past year, we’ve launched several Grocery fulfillment centers across the country, with the most recent ones being in Hubli, Vizag and Malda. These new centers have enabled us to provide next-day deliveries, while fostering market access for small businesses and local farming communities in India.

Recognising the increasing demand for online grocery deliveries, we will continue to enhance our supply chain capabilities, while creating numerous direct and indirect job opportunities. Our goal is to provide pan-India market access to thousands of local sellers, MSMEs, and farmers, ensuring that we cater to the diverse needs of our customers while supporting the growth of local economies. -

How has the growth trajectory of Flipkart's e-grocery segment been, and what key strategies have you implemented to drive this growth across India?

Hemant Badri: Our robust supply chain network spans across India, ensuring efficient and timely deliveries even to remote locations. Our state-of-the-art technology, extensive network of warehouses, and delivery hubs play a pivotal role in facilitating seamless grocery deliveries nationwide. The grocery supply chain differs significantly from others due to the perishable nature of the products and the need for stringent temperature control and faster delivery times. To address these challenges, we have integrated a cold chain system to keep perishable goods fresh and quality assured. Additionally, our AI-driven inventory management systems accurately predict demand, minimise waste, and ensure prompt delivery.

Grocery Inventory Management at Flipkart's Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh fulfilment centre.
Grocery Inventory Management at Flipkart's Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh fulfilment centre.

We recently announced a record growth of 1.6X year-on-year in our grocery business. This milestone is a testament to our commitment to providing the best online shopping experience to all consumers with a wide selection of daily essentials at great prices and convenience. We take pride in being the only e-commerce player to offer next-day deliveries in over 200 cities, including metros such as Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi, as well as tier 2+ towns such as Anantapur, Berhampore, Gorakhpur, and Moradabad, among several others.

We have made significant strides in adopting electric vehicles in our grocery supply chain, with over 50% of grocery deliveries now being made through EVs. This commitment to sustainability has led to a remarkable 140% year-on-year growth in EV adoption, further solidifying Flipkart's position as a leader in eco-friendly practices in the e-commerce sector. We utilise Bajaj's best-in-class EV technology to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of our last-mile delivery operations. This boosts operational efficiency and sets a benchmark for green logistics practices within the e-commerce sector.

How does Flipkart's grocery Supply Chain growth align with its sustainability vision? Can you provide specific examples of initiatives or strategies that demonstrate this integration? What sustainable initiatives has Flipkart implemented in its grocery supply chain?

Hemant Badri: Our grocery supply chain is experiencing significant growth, driven by our commitment to customer satisfaction and market expansion. We prioritise sustainable practices in the design, construction, and operational processes when constructing new facilities or expanding our infrastructure, ensuring that sustainability is deeply embedded in our business operations.

Our focus on eco-friendly infrastructure is evident in the construction of new grocery fulfillment centers and regional distribution centers (RDCs). For instance, the RDC in Manesar has received Platinum pre-certification from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), a testament to its environmentally friendly design. The Manesar RDC, with features like rainwater harvesting systems and extensive green spaces, not only reduces environmental impact but also contributes to local biodiversity and air quality improvement. Additionally, the facility's capacity to generate up to 20MWp of solar energy highlights our strong focus on renewable energy, significantly decreasing reliance on non-renewable power sources. Such certifications ensure that our facilities adhere to strict sustainability standards, including energy efficiency, water conservation, and a reduced carbon footprint.

As a homegrown Indian e-commerce marketplace, we continue to seek operational efficiencies while ensuring that our growth is sustainable and environmentally responsible. Every aspect of our grocery supply chain aims to contribute to a broader vision of sustainability, making a positive impact on both the environment and society.

How many electric vehicles have Flipkart deployed for grocery deliveries, and what has been the year-on-year growth in this area?

Nishant Gupta: At Flipkart, sustainability isn't just a goal; it's a guiding principle deeply embedded in every facet of our operations, including our supply chain. Currently,over 50% of our grocery deliveries are made using EVs, demonstrating our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint. Over the past year, we have seen a remarkable 140% increase in our EV deployment fleet for grocery deliveries. This progress aligns with our long-term strategy to expand our use of eco-friendly solutions.

How has the transition from a traditional delivery chain to electric vehicles impacted the operational aspects of Flipkart's grocery delivery service?

Nishant Gupta: The transformation in our logistics framework has positively impacted our grocery delivery service. EVs have proven to be reliable and efficient for our delivery needs, particularly in dense urban areas and tier 2+ towns where the agility and reduced emissions of these vehicles make a substantial difference. This shift has not only enhanced our operational efficiency but has resulted in considerable cost savings on fuel and maintenance, allowing us to allocate resources more effectively. This transition has also strengthened our supply chain resilience, enabling us to meet the growing demand for next-day and same-day deliveries with greater precision and lower environmental impact. By integrating advanced technologies and optimising our logistics network with EVs, we have improved our delivery speed and reliability, ensuring that our customers receive their groceries fresh and on time. Not to mention that EVs offer a significant improvement in rider partners’ driving experience with much less sound and more vehicular stability.

Could you elaborate on Flipkart's use of reusable packaging material in its grocery supply chain to minimise waste?

Nishant Gupta: Over the years, we have implemented various strategies to minimise waste and reduce the environmental impact in our grocery supply chain. A key initiative towards this effort has been the utilisation of reusable packaging materials. We have made significant strides in this area by replacing single-use plastics with reusable totes for delivery, and for fragile items, we have adopted eco-friendly cardboard shreds. Since 2021, single-use plastics have been entirely phased out and replaced by various environmentally friendly alternatives, making us one of the first e-commerce companies to actively champion the elimination of single-use plastic. Additionally, we have integrated paper-based materials such as shredded paper, paper bags, and pouches to replace traditional fillers like bubble wrap. As we continue to innovate,we are actively exploring solutions such as reusable and refillable shipping boxes while increasing the use of recycled materials in our packaging.

In which regions has Flipkart currently deployed EVs for its grocery deliveries, and are there any plans to expand this deployment to other regions?

Hemant Badri: We have achieved remarkable progress in integrating EVs into our delivery network, particularly for grocery deliveries. Currently, we have successfully deployed EVs in several key regions, including Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu. These regions are leading the way in EV adoption, showcasing the effectiveness and sustainability of electric mobility solutions in our logistics operations. We have been actively working on plans to expand our EV deployment to additional regions across the country. Our goal is to create a robust and scalable electric vehicle infrastructure that supports our e-commerce operations while minimising our carbon footprint. We are confident that with our continued partnerships with leading OEMs and logistics partners, we will be able to achieve a 100% transition to electric mobility, ensuring cleaner and more efficient deliveries nationwide.

How does having a clear and shared vision for sustainability create a positive cascading effect across the entire ecosystem?

Nishant Gupta: When sustainability is deeply embedded in our organisational ethos, it not only drives us to adopt eco-friendly practices but also inspires our partners, suppliers, and customers to align with these values. This collective commitment leads to the development of more innovative solutions, the implementation of greener supply chains, and the adoption of energy-efficient technologies. By prioritising sustainability across the value chain, we reduce our carbon footprint and operational costs, which ultimately benefits the entire ecosystem through improved efficiency and reduced waste. This holistic approach not only enhances our reputation as a responsible brand but also ensures that we contribute meaningfully to the well-being of the planet and society, creating a sustainable future for all stakeholders involved.

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